The first Lidl discount store was opened in Germany in 1973 by Dieter Schwarz, son of Josef Schwarz who in the 1930s helped develop fruit trader Südfrüchte Grosshandel Lidl & Co into a general food wholesaler.

By 1977 the Lidl & Schwarz chain (as the company was then known) consisted of 33 discount stores, and began to expand further by focusing on discount markets, larger supermarkets, and cash and carry wholesale markets.